News & Views

Time, resources and flexibility

In the last post I illustrated a way in which a pathway that seemed at first unable to be simplified into natural developmental stages could develop by duplication of genes, and parallel loops that later disappeared.  These two concepts are very powerful and can explain many new developments that look unsolvable when trying to look at them in terms of linear development   Most structures and pathways deemed to be “irreducibly complex” by the ID movement are not so.

The illustration I gave was admittedly theoretical and invented.  However all the features in the illustration are present in nature in DNA and metabolism. → Read more

Irreducible complexity

A central concept of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement is “Irreducible Complexity.”  This idea maintains that certain structures, or processes in nature (such as the mammalian eye, or the bacterial flagellum) have such a high degree of complexity and interdependence that they could not have evolved spontaneously.  The implication is that an intelligent designer (left unspecified) lent a hand to the natural process at specific times and then the new creations diversified by microevolution.

The proposition is very credible.  Take the cover off a computer, or the dashboard off a plane and the enormous complexity of wires and silicon chip circuits, each carefully placed, connected and powered, baffle any attempt by the uninitiated to remove bits without damaging the working of the whole.  How could it have arisen without intelligent planning and design?  What about the bacterial flagellum, a nanomotor that contains 42 parts, each precisely placed and fitted to function together?  What about a complex metabolic pathway? → Read more

It is commonly stated that no new information is ever produced by mutations and natural selection.   An interview some years ago of Professor Richard Dawkins by two creationist groups, apparently shows Dawkins stumped by a question on this.  The recording has been manipulated to give this impression but it highlights the issue*.  Is the claim true?  Michael Dembski, one of the key people in the Intelligent Design movement, has speculated a law of conservation of information – that specific information is never created nor destroyed.

Here is a question to consider.  Does the passage of time add information to inanimate objects?  When Sherlock Holmes looks at an old pair of shoes, or an old walking stick, does he see more or less information than was present when the items were brand new? → Read more

A friend of mine recently mentioned to me how amazed and awestruck he was by the adaptability of life through the ingenious mechanisms of DNA shuffling and mutations.  God, in allowing the development of a molecule that is in constant flux from generation to generation, has allowed life the ability to flow into and fill virtually every cranny and crack and niche on this earth – from fish, mammals and crustacea that survive under the ice in Antarctic waters, to birds that can fly above Everest, to archaeobacteria that survive in sulfurous acid thermal pools at boiling point, and undersea thermal vents.  In the long term, life as a whole will find a way to survive almost any earth environment where there is water, nutrients and energy, as it has already survived meteor impacts, volcanic eruptions, atmospheric changes and other catastrophic events.   The adaptability of life to altered environments is a direct consequence of the adaptability of DNA. → Read more

See Part I.

(Click on the image to see it in a larger window)

Sapphire and Homer had three major theories as to how the notes had come to be that way. They considered other options but these seemed the most likely.

The course designer had made unique originals for each of the courses that would ever be run. For each new original, the designer ensured that exactly the same typographical errors were typed in – they were ‘prescribed’.  In each separate original, exactly the same marks were faithfully added by hand, to look just like coffee spills and messy photocopying. For some courses, unique features, like what looked like a repaired tear, was added to the original.  Thus each handbook for each particular course was a separate work of “art”. The handouts in Christine’s and Sapphire’s handbooks were actually typed out as different originals and embellished by hand in exquisite detail as though they were photocopies with all the extra marks. Similar to the first theory but instead of being a creative exercise, the typos, photocopying marks and coffee stains were built in separately to each course because this director was angry with the first group of students, who had complained about the costs of the course when enrolling. This theory was a little different. The idea was that the course books of the four friends shared an original in common. That original had included all the typos (presumably an underpaid or second-rate secretary had mistyped from an original or a dictation), and the staple and removed staple marks, and the bent-over corner, and also included the coffee-cup stains, which presumably were due to an accident. The course-book for Sapphire and Homer’s course had been copied from a version somewhat later than that of Christine and Gordon, and had in addition acquired a tear, and a clumsy repair. → Read more

Imagine that two business students, Sapphire and Homer meet for the first time on a lecture course about time management. As Sapphire is listening to the afternoon lecture, she notices that the handout book she was given when registering is spoilt by some typographical errors, photocopying marks and coffee stains. Page 42 summarising time management is particularly bad (see below). It shows numerous typos, including unnecessary punctuation, letter reversals, replacement of a p with a bracket in point 3 and duplication of point eight, whereas point nine is missing. It looks as though the page was copied with the paper not quite straight, and the right top corner folded down, partly obscuring some words. There are photocopied marks of a staple and holes from a removed staple. It has a coffee cup stain and coffee spill mark, and furthermore a big tear right across the coffee cup mark has been clumsily repaired with sticking tape before photocopying. Sapphire has made some changes herself – she has circled the word ‘balance’ in point 4 and has corrected “team” to “term” in the same point. → Read more

At this time of year, we consider the incarnation of Jesus – God himself, entering his own creation.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 1:6,7

My local Christian community met this morning and there was an opportunity to share what the incarnation and the birth of Jesus meant to individuals. Several spoke of the apparent absurdity of it all. The Ruler of creation is revealed, not by a birth in noble and ostentatious circumstances, but in diametrically opposite fashion, in the smelly and humiliating stable of a village inn that had no room for his peasant mother at her moment of crisis. Secular people sometimes cringe at what they perceive as gratuitous degradation (Christ’s birth) and violence (Christ’s death) at the heart of the Christian message. And yet, strangely enough, that circumstance was how God showed his heart and identification with the poor and downtrodden of the world.

→ Read more